Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with with @clatemask. Clate Mask is an entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, which makes small business sales and marketing automation software. Mask co-authored Conquer the Chaos, a New York Times best-selling book. Mask has made contributions writing about entrepreneurship for VentureBeat, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. Mask attended Arizona State University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1996. He then continued to earn his Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from Brigham Young University in 2000. Mask started his career working for North Sky, a company in Utah that was later sold to About.com in 1999. In 2001, he started eNovaSys with Scott Martineau and Eric Martineau. eNovaSys evolved into what is now Infusionsoft where Mask serves as CEO. Mask and Scott Martineau’s book, Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy (ISBN 0470599324), was on the best-selling lists in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal in June 2010. Conquer the Chaos focuses on balancing personal and work life, while becoming successful, as a budding entrepreneur. For more information, visit infusionsoft.com
SmallBizLady: What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Clate Mask: There is absolutely nothing like the thrill of taking something that you created out to market. It’s a ton of fun, it’s challenging and it’s so rewarding to know that your future is entirely in your own hands.
SmallBizLady: What’s one of the first things a small business owner should do?
Clate Mask: When starting a business, one of the first things you should as the owner is to articulate the purpose of your business. At Infusionsoft our purpose is quite simple: “To help small businesses succeed.”
SmallBizLady: Once the purpose is established, what should a small business owner do next?
Clate Mask: Look for technology that will help you run your business smoothly – be it CRM, email marketing, social, whatever is most critical to your business. In today’s landscape, technology is mandatory for any business that wants to scale efficiently and create long-term growth.
SmallBizLady: Why start a small business?
Clate Mask: When people think of small businesses, they often imagine a family-run mom-and-pop store or a startup launched by entrepreneurs with fire in their eyes. The small business mythos is inspiring – especially if for those of us who have dreamed of starting a business based on our own passions.
SmallBizLady: Was it challenging to start Infusionsoft?
Clate Mask: Yes, starting any small business is challenging. If you’ve been part of a startup, you know it. But the early days is also where the rubber meets the road and magic happens. I think that the challenges of starting and successfully growing a small business fall into three categories – all of which I experienced when starting Infusionsoft. Know you won’t make money in the early days. Have a savings to live off of for the first few years. I literally had no food for my family in the early days of Infusionsoft.
Your relationships will be put on the back burner. Starting a business is very consuming and there isn’t much left over for the people you care about. The mental and emotional strain coupled with the time and energy spent thinking about your business create drained emotional resources. Now I have found a good balance, but in the early days of Infusionsoft I was hyper-focused on the company.
SmallBizLady: How did you manage in the early days of Infusionsoft?
Clate Mask: Most small businesses don’t make it. I was lucky Infusionsoft did and it was because had a great team both in the office and at home. And I still do. Although early on my wife told me I needed to put my MBA and law degrees to work and find a real job. I went to work one day intending to do that and got caught up with work that I forgot! Luckily I have a forgiving wife and things worked out for Infusionsoft.
Don’t be afraid of the challenges as you start and grow. Plan, anticipate and prepare. Every day you make it increases your chance of survival!
SmallBizLady: Who did you start Infusionsoft with?
Clate Mask: I started Infusionsoft with my brother-in-laws Scott and Eric Martineau.
SmallBizLady: What was it like to work with close friends and family?
Clate Mask: Working with family and close friends is not for everyone. If you can handle it, remember that relationships come first, except when the business comes first.
SmallBizLady: What do you mean by that?
Clate Mask: Every decision you make must be in the best interest of the business. Communicate clear measures of success up front and recognize top performers equally. Disagreements aren’t personal and clear boundaries must be set and kept.
SmallBizLady: Have you had disagreements with your brother-in-laws?
Clate Mask: We’ve had many passionate disagreements and raised our voices. We’ve always made sure to make peace before leaving the room and make sure others in the company understand we’re moving forward in harmony.
SmallBizLady: As CEO of Infusionsoft, you must get a lot of questions from entrepreneurs. What question do you hear most?
Clate Mask: It’s all about growth. I’ve worked and spoken with thousands of entrepreneurs and they all ask about growth. I had the same question when starting Infusionsoft. How do startups and small businesses get over the hump and begin to enjoy consistent, profitable growth?
SmallBizLady: What’s the answer – how do small businesses start to see consistent, profitable growth?
Clate Mask: It’s different for every small business owner. I’ve seen 4 common mistakes that get in the way of growth. The 4 mistakes are: deciding not to grow; relying too heavily on referrals; believing they’ll just “figure it out”; and thinking they can do everything themselves. Not letting go of things is the most common pitfall of entrepreneurs. Once they start giving up responsibility they realize how much more they can accomplish.
SmallBizLady: What is it like to really run a small business?
Clate Mask: Running a small business is chaotic. It’s easy to get sucked into the day-to-day operations required to keep things running smoothly AND profitably. As the person in charge, you are responsible for making sure things move forward.
SmallBizLady: As a small business owner, what should you being doing to make sure your business is running smoothly?
Clate Mask: Set aside time to focus on strategic planning/planning for the future. Start with one hour per week – keep that one hour dedicated to focusing on how you’ll take the business to the next stage of success.
SmallBizLady: What’s the most important thing you want small business owners to remember?
Clate Mask: Don’t forget why you wanted to start your business. Remember that passion behind it and the ability to live the life you want to live.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com